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‘Arrow’ Season Four Review

Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Co-Executive Stage Editor

With a season filled with magic, new characters and so much more Arrow accomplished a lot this season. Between the first season of Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) relationship to killing off a major, fan-favorite character to a mystical villain, Arrow delivers a season with some strong points, but also some negative ones. After an entire season of reviewing Arrow, I break down and review everything in season four including some of my favorite moments.

Oliver and Felicity

If season four proved anything for Arrow fans, it’s that Oliver and Felicity’s relationship is one of the biggest, fan-favorite ships on TV right now. Arrow dove head first into their relationship following three seasons of sexual tension between the characters. Fans welcomed the relationship with open arms and they were given some of the best acting moments between Rickards and Amell. Between their house in the suburbs to their engagement to their tragic breakup, “Olicity” managed to hit all the major relationship points.

Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards have proven themselves tremendously over the four seasons of Arrow. The duo both started out as relatively unknown actors, but now have transformed themselves and their characters into one of the most talked about couples on TV today. All season long, Amell and Rickards gave some of their best acting performances together. It’s safe to say that Rickards is the breakthrough actor on Arrow and her intimate moments opposite Amell are when she truly leaves her mark. The mark of a great acting pair is when one actor can deliver lines that pack a punch while the other simply listens and reacts. This is what happens every single time Amell and Rickards act opposite each other. Their natural chemistry and sheer love for the characters and storylines they portray comes across effortlessly on screen.

For season five, here’s hoping the duo find their way back to each other. After a devastating breakup, Oliver and Felicity didn’t get back together by the end of season four, however with the two of them left standing side by side at the end of the season it looks like they are headed back together. The very definition of a “slow burn,” “Olicity” leaves fans wanting more when season four reaches an epic conclusion.

Most Adorable Moments: In 4×09 “Dark Waters” when Oliver gets down on one knee and proposes to Felicity in front of Star City. In 4×16 “Broken Hearts,” although they are broken up, Oliver delivers an adorable moment when he recites his vows during the fake “Olicity” wedding.

Biggest Tear Jerker: In 4×10 “Blood Debts,” Felicity lies in a hospital bed after being shot by Darhk’s crew. Felicity and Oliver exchange a heartbreaking conversation when Felicity tells Oliver, “We didn’t really exchange any vows so the whole, ‘For better, for worse’ thing doesn’t really apply here…” Oliver gives a heartbroken Felicity her engagement ring back and tells her, “For better, for worse.” Honorable mention: In 4×15 “Taken” when Felicity Megan Smoak takes off her engagement ring, places it on the kitchen table and breaks the heart of Oliver Queen and millions of Arrow fans.

Laurel Lance

Katie Cassidy in the Arrow episode "Eleven-Fifty-Nine." Photo Credit: The CW
Katie Cassidy in the Arrow episode “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.” Photo Credit: The CW

From the first episode of season four, fans anxiously awaited who would be the person in the grave. Sadly, fan-favorite Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) was killed by Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) during a brutal fight in Iron Heights prison. The death not only ended a beloved DC Comics character, but also a character arc that seemed to just be getting started. When Arrow began, Laurel was the love scorned ex-girlfriend of Oliver then she became a drug addict before finally transforming into the Black Canary. The redemption arc worked perfectly for the character and allowed fans to fall in love with this version of the Black Canary. Cassidy’s work went above and beyond expectations as she stepped into the career defining role. Although in recent seasons, her storylines seemed to be overshadowed by other characters, Laurel continued to be a vital member of Team Arrow. Her work alongside Paul Blackthorne and Caity Lotz was especially memorable. All three actors created a great Lance family dynamic and Laurel’s death will surely continue to affect Sara and Quentin for seasons to come.

The character of Laurel touched each and every character on Arrow and her presence on the show will continue to be missed into season five. In terms of future seasons, Cassidy will always be welcomed back with open arms and has already been part of episodes since dying. Her work in the recent The Flash episode as Black Siren was truly remarkable and allowed Cassidy to continue her work as Laurel. Here’s hoping Laurel is never forgotten and returns to Arrow often.

Best Moments: In 4×04 though 4×06 when Laurel deals with resurrecting Sara and the repercussions that come with her entering the Lazarus Pit. Sadly Laurel’s last episode 4×18 “Eleven-Fifty-Nine,” when Laurel decides to step in as District Attorney and fight alongside the team one last time.

Best Laurel Moment Overall: In 3×01 “The Calm” when Laurel is first brought into the Team Arrow storylines and shares a sweet moment with Sara right before she is murdered. RIP Dinah Laurel Lance.

John Diggle

Audrey Marie Anderson and David Ramsey in the Arrow season four finale “Schism.” Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW
Audrey Marie Anderson and David Ramsey in the Arrow season four finale “Schism.” Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

It was the season of Diggle (David Ramsey) as he dealt with his brother, Andy (Eugene Byrd) being alive and working for Damien Darhk. Since season one, Andy was always an important figure for Diggle. His brother helped lead him to helping Oliver and finding out he was alive set Diggle on a character arc for season four. Ramsey did a beautiful job at showing Diggle’s conflict between wanting to believe his brother to utter betrayal. His work opposite Byrd helped add to Diggle’s backstory and ultimately enhanced the character fans know and love. One of the biggest requests from fans going into season four involved more storylines for Diggle and Arrow delivered. Ramsey was able to showcase his full range of acting especially in heartbreaking scenes opposite Byrd and Audrey Marie AndersonOne of the storylines fans still wished was explored more was Diggle and Lyla’s relationship. The married couple on Arrow rarely receives many storylines and it began to change towards the end of the season. The duo are often overlooked for more extravagant storylines, but when they are put together they are forces to be reckoned with.

For season five, with Diggle leaving Star City and joining the military once again his storyline can go anywhere. It will be interesting to see how this time away from Team Arrow will change Diggle and what will happen to him fresh out of the military once again.

Best Moment: In 4×20 “Genesis” Andy and Diggle’s heartbreaking story comes to a brutal end when Diggle must kill Andy when he threatens Lyla and Baby Sara.

Thea vs. Malcolm

Willa Holland and John Barrowman in the Arrow episode "Eleven-Fifty-Nine." Photo Credit: The CW
Willa Holland and John Barrowman in the Arrow episode “Eleven-Fifty-Nine.” Photo Credit: The CW

Since it was revealed that Thea (Willa Holland) was actually Malcolm’s (John Barrowman) daughter, their storylines have been intertwined. This didn’t change in season four of Arrow. The duo work side by side for most of the season, whether it be with or against each other. Barrowman and Holland bring their A-game to most episodes, however Holland was more affective breaking away from the father/daughter storyline than Barrowman. Thea made a name for herself this season when she joined Team Arrow as Speedy and it was a great storyline to witness. Holland has transformed Thea into a vital character on Arrow and she went through hell and back this season once again.

Barrowman on the other hand, seems to be leading the same old storylines. He began the season as Ra’s al Ghul only to lose the title following a fight with Oliver. This led him right back to a villainous storyline when he helps Darhk. He has been running in circles with his “trying to protect Thea” mantle since season three and it’s getting a little tiresome. Barrowman is an incredible actor and has blossomed Malcolm into a multi-dimensional character, but the character is starting to move backwards. Malcolm flip flops on whether or not to align with Team Arrow or be against them so much it’s hard to tell which side Malcolm truly wants to be on. It might have been better to keep him as Ra’s al Ghul for the entirety of season four instead of simply latching him onto Darhk’s storyline. Barrowman, you are a force to be reckoned with, but let’s hope some new storylines come your way in season five.

Best Moment: For Thea it was in 4×12 “Unchained” when Roy (Colton Haynes) and Thea have a heart-to-heart and exchange “I love you’s.” For Malcolm it was in 4×13 “Sins of the Father” when Malcolm battles Oliver over the title of Ra’s al Ghul.

Curtis Holt

Echo Kellum and Emily Bett Rickards in Arrow. Photo Credit: The CW
Echo Kellum and Emily Bett Rickards in Arrow. Photo Credit: The CW

The biggest and best addition to Arrow season four was the introduction of Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum). Kellum rose to the occasion and created a very dynamic character Arrow fans can’t wait to see more of. Kellum’s portrays the quirky, awkward character with ease and has turned Curtis into the best new character. Since his introduction in 4×02 “The Candidate,” Curtis melded effortlessly into the Arrow world, especially with Felicity. Kellum and Rickards were the comedic duo to beat this season as they rambled their way into fans hearts. I think it’s safe to say that Felicity has found her “John Diggle” in Curtis. Between his enthusiasm over joining Team Arrow to his exchanges with Oliver and Felicity, Curtis is the fun loving, recurring character fans have wanted and Arrow has needed.

In terms of season five, here’s hoping Curtis begins to work with Team Arrow even more, especially now that Oliver and Felicity are the only two members left in Star City. It’s safe to assume, Curtis will also begin his transition into Mr. Terrific, his superhero counterpart in the DC Comics universe. Wherever season five takes him, Kellum will be a welcomed addition to the main cast in season five and fans cannot wait to see how he develops the character even more.

Best Moments: In episode 4×22 “Lost in the Flood” when Curtis assists Felicity and Noah (Tom Amandes) in taking down Rubicon. Also, his equivalent to Felicity’s “I believe in you” moment in 4×23 “Schism,” when he gives Oliver a pep talk.

Donna Smoak and Quentin Lance

Charlotte Ross and Paul Blackthorne in the Arrow episode "Dark Waters." Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/ The CW
Charlotte Ross and Paul Blackthorne in the Arrow episode “Dark Waters.” Photo Credit: Diyah Pera/ The CW

Season four, although centered around Oliver’s quest to find the light within himself, also dealt heavily with the Smoak Ladies. Donna Smoak (Charlotte Ross) returned this season for even more episodes and a great storyline. Ross has transformed Donna into a multi-dimensional character on Arrow. Last season, Donna was introduced as a the polar opposite to Felicity’s character and has come so far from the first time she busted down Felicity’s apartment door. Season four of Arrow allowed Donna to grow into a character that wasn’t solely attached to Felicity’s character. Ross and Rickards mother/daughter bond was exemplified on Arrow season four with several episodes involving heart to hearts that would make any fan tear up. Ross brought her A-game this season and became a fan favorite addition to season four.

Although her work with Rickards continues to be the defining characteristic of her time on Arrow, the relationship between Ross and Blackthorne also left its mark on this season. The Donna and Quentin relationship began in episode 4×06, “Lost Souls” when the duo met at a bar. The sparks began to fly right from the start and allowed Ross to explore another storyline on Arrow. One of their best moments comes towards the end of the season following Laurel’s death. She’s the rock for Quentin to lean on and it’s a great relationship that has blossomed during the season. As for season five, Donna and Quentin drive off into the sunset (similar to Oliver and Felicity at the end of season three) and there’s no telling what will happen for the happy couple. In an exclusive interview with Emertainment Monthly, Ross expressed no immediate plan to bring Donna Smoak back for season five or plans to bring her on as a series regular. Here’s hoping Donna doesn’t become a stranger to Star City!

Best Moments: In 4×09 “Dark Waters” when Donna stumbled upon Oliver’s engagement ring for Felicity in the Christmas decorations. Also in 4×09 when she attends the Holiday party with Quentin. SmoaknLance forever!

Damien Darhk/Magic in Star City

Neal McDonough and Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode "Blood Debts." Photo Credit: Katie Yu/ The CW
Neal McDonough and Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode “Blood Debts.” Photo Credit: Katie Yu/ The CW

The big bad for season for of Arrow was non other than Damien Darhk. After previously being mentioned in season three by Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), Darhk shows up with a vendetta against Star City. From the moment he steps on screen this season, McDonough commands every scene he’s part of. He delivers his lines with such eloquence and hatred that he swiftly became one of the biggest, baddest villains Arrow has ever seen. A formidable foe against Oliver this season, Darhk gave a new meaning to “villain.” McDonough made the character his own and it was a privilege to watch him re-invent the DC Comics character week after week. He melded into the Arrow world flawlessly and it’s actually sad to bid farewell to McDonough at the end of this season.

Although Darhk became a quintessential part of Arrow season four, he also brought magic to the world of Star City, which ultimately dragged the season down. Arrow also stood out amongst typical superhero shows because it did not involve superpowers or magic. The show simply thrived on killer stunts and the heart from every actor and crew member. Since the introduction of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) in season two, Arrow has almost been degraded by other The CW superhero shows. This season, Arrow continued to be the show to launch other series and although it made for some action packed storytelling the magic introduced to Arrow caused the show to stray too far from what its fans love: the gritty world of Team Arrow saving Star City. My hope (along with Stephen Amell’s) is that the show rids itself of magic in season five and gets back to the basic crime fighting it thrives on.

Most Villainous Moment: In 4×09 “Dark Waters” when Darhk captures Felicity, Thea and Diggle (David Ramsey) at the Holiday party and locks them in the airless chamber. Also when he orders his minions to shoot Felicity causing her to be paralyzed in the same episode.

The Flashbacks

Matt Ryan in the Arrow episode "Haunted." Photo Credit: Cate Cameron/ The CW
Matt Ryan in the Arrow episode “Haunted.” Photo Credit: Cate Cameron/ The CW

The weakest link in Arrow season four was the flashbacks. This season featured Oliver returning to Lian Yu to help A.R.G.U.S stop Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola) and his crew. While on the island he befriends, Taiana (Elysa Rotaru) who joins him on his crusade. Of course, the biggest plot point for the flashbacks involved a mysterious idol that gave Reiter mystical powers. With every episode of Arrow this season, the flashbacks got more and more tedious. The characters were forgettable and detracted from the action happening in present day. Although the sequences allowed fans to learn more about Darhk’s idol, the source of his magic, they were not engaging enough. Each week, the flashbacks were often the weakest links to otherwise engaging episodes. By seasons end, Taiana, who fans have spent an entire season with, is killed and I didn’t even bat an eye. Season four’s flashbacks were the worst in the four seasons of Arrow and even going back to Lian Yu and introducing Constantine (Matt Ryan) couldn’t save them.

Next season, it looks like fans with get a glimpse of Bratva Oliver as he travels to Russia to honor a promise he made to Taiana. The fact that the most exciting thing to happen on the flashbacks involves set up for next season is pretty sad. The Bratva Oliver storyline will hopefully be more engaging for fans and prove why the flashbacks are vital to Arrow’s story.

Best Flashback Moment: In 4×05 “Haunted,” Oliver calls on an old friend, Constantine to help bring Sara back to life. The present day encounter leads fans to see flashbacks involving Constantine on Lian Yu and how he and Oliver struck up a relationship. Bring back Constantine!

The Stunts

Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode "Schism." Photo Credit: The CW
Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode “Schism.” Photo Credit: The CW

Arrow has always shined when it comes to the stunt department. Since season one, the hand-to-hand combat scenes have allowed Arrow to solidify itself as one of the great stunt shows currently on TV. Although the stunts have gotten bigger, Arrow’s strongest points remain with the stunt department and everything they accomplish. This season, the single takes for several of the action sequences help exemplify the stunt movements by the cast and crew. The massive stunt sequences also showcases the stunt departments pure man power. The Arrow stunt department deserves a round of applause for everything they have accomplished this season. From a massive final showdown between Darhk and Oliver to a stairwell fight, stunts came often and were never disappointing.  

For season five, my hope is that Arrow continues to get back to basics, even with the stunts. One of the best moments in season four was the stunts that involved no magic. Arrow thrives in the hand-to-hand combat moments and here’s hoping there are more of them next season. One of the biggest blessings for season five will be that there is not a new show to introduce. Arrow can simply showcase their best assets and get back to basics, this includes stunts.

Best Stunt Moments: In 4×22 “Lost in the Flood” when Diggle and Oliver are in Darhk’s underground safehaven. The dolly shot as Spartan and Green Arrow run down the streets fighting the Ghosts. In 4×23 “Schism” when Oliver and Darhk have their final showdown backed by the Ghosts and the citizens of Star City.

Best Episode This Season: Dark Waters

Overall Season Grade: B

Arrow returns Wednesdays at 8/7c this fall on The CW

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